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UNLV Cybersecurity Leaders Help You Avoid Falling for Tricks This Halloween Season

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. As part of the celebration, the Information Security Office and Cybersecurity Center give you tips on how to protect yourself against cyber ghouls.

OIT News  |  Nov 5, 2020  |  By Nicole Johnson
Laptop with pumpkins on table

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (Unsplash)

October is marked by sweater weather, pumpkin spice lattes, and Halloween haunts. Ghosts, goblins, and candy corn (uh hmm, the worst Halloween candy in America) are not the only things you need to fear during this season.

October is also National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. With hackers lurking everywhere, data breaches and cyberattacks could be on the rise. The Identity Theft Resource Center reported nearly half a billion records were stolen from American consumers in 2018, and just this year, more than 100 million people in the U.S. were impacted by the Capital One data breach.

So, what are you doing to ensure that you are not the next victim of a cybercrime?

To keep yourself protected, UNLV information security experts put together a few tips to help you from getting tricked by cybercriminals.

Werewolves Howl, Hackers Prowl: Keep Internet Intruders From Breaking In Your Virtual Neighborhood

Vito Rocco, senior information security analyst, said the easiest thing you can do is use a password manager.

“Passwords should be long and unique for each account,” Rocco mentioned. “The best way to keep track of these is with a password manager. Every single password is saved and securely stored in one encrypted location. All you have to do is remember one password.” 

Rocco encourages two-step authentication where possible. Think of it as adding extra security to your accounts and applications - sort of like locking your front door, then setting your home alarm. Rather than just asking for a username and password, it requires additional credentials, such as an answer to a security question, a fingerprint, or a code from your smartphone. 

Also, be careful what you post on social media. These sites are often used by hackers to gather information that can be used for identity theft or other cybercrimes. In fact, a new report by the Better Business Bureau shows 91 percent of consumers who were exposed to a scam on social media engaged with the scammer, with another 53 percent of them reported they lost money.

“Limit what information you post on social media,” said Rocco. “Cybercriminals use things like your birthday and your dog’s name as a way to build a profile and steal your identity or hack into your personal accounts. And if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Knowing How to Identify Cybersecurity Threats is Not a Bunch of Hocus Pocus 

Juyeon Jo and Yoohwan Kim, computer science professors, are sparking more interest in the cybersecurity field through awareness and education.
Leaders in information security, they are the founders of the UNLV Cybersecurity Center. The program, which was named a National Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, highlights cybersecurity research, education, and professional development, preparing students for a career in cyber defense.

UNLV has a strong cybersecurity community. Jo mentions that the institution hosts several events, seminars, and training classes for students, faculty, and staff, but stresses the importance of being vigilant online.

“People need to be more conscious of what they are doing on the internet,” said Jo. “Many attacks target individuals using a phishing email, social engineering, and so on. Some are made possible due to negligence of updating browsers or operating systems. That is why cybersecurity awareness is so important, and we need to educate our users to pay more attention to it.”
Cybersecurity awareness is more than installing software updates or taking classes. It is about changing your attitude. To assist you, the Cybersecurity Center offers free services that can improve your online habits and strengthen your stance on cybersecurity.

“Cyberattacks can cause a lot of inconveniences and potentially financial loss,” said Kim. “We provide services that can prevent you from being exploited by hackers. Some of things we can do include reviewing websites and file attachments to ensure they are from a legitimate source.”

Although National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is in October (and has been for the last 16 years), awareness and education should last the whole year. 

“You are the best defense against cybercriminals,” said Kim. “Continuous education is key to staying safe online. It is important to know how to spot the nefarious tactics of a scammer and take the necessary steps to block it as much as possible.”

Now is the time to prepare for a chilling, scary experience - a data breach, a phishing scam, or fake updates. Start by checking out the cybersecurity webpage, completing cybersecurity awareness training (UNLV employees), or visiting the Cybersecurity Center site.